Today’s healthcare consumers have a multitude of information and technology at their fingertips. How do we grapple with this dynamic in healthcare marketing and strategy?

How do we know whom to reach when, and with what message? From initiating and maintaining meaningful communication to cultivating interactions that extend into lifelong relationships, one might expect that to be successful, marketers need and are expected to be omniscient—all-seeing and all-knowing at all times. Knowing these expectations and the growing stakes of consumer engagement, how can we get a grasp on the values, needs, and motivations of individual people without losing sight of the big picture: compelling the community at-large to be more engaged in their health?

To effectively reach today’s healthcare consumer—bombarded by options and a sense of autonomy—it’s important to take a step back, immerse ourselves in their world, and embody their view. That means looking beyond traditional key performance indicators (KPIs) like appointments, outcomes, and satisfaction scores. While these are certainly important, they only tell part of the story. Only when we contextualize quantitative performance data and analytics with qualitative, human-centered insights rooted in face-to-face consumer engagement can we leverage the truly holistic view and insights needed to build authentic relationships that drive positive impact and outcomes. 

Consider the following when exploring the journey consumers have with your organization:

  • Put on Your Walking Shoes. How often does your team spend time in the field? Commit to uncover the “why” behind the need for marketing a new service or physician. Step into the consumer’s shoes and head for the hospital. Approach and analyze current processes from different points of view to identify opportunities for authentic messaging and redesign. Connect on a human level to find compelling reasons why patients would want to engage with your organization.
  • Look Outside for Insight. Take time to pinpoint what need your healthcare institution fills in the local community. Evaluate the role that you play and the value that you contribute—where is your organization present and what is the exchange between your organization and the community? Rethink the passive notion of “if you build it, they will come”—because today, this is not guaranteed. Equip yourself and your team with context rooted in active involvement in the community—use their words to inform yours.
  • Commit to the Details. Every time a consumer comes into contact with your organization, it’s a moment to enhance or hinder their perception. An ad, a road sign, the tone of a receptionist, the traffic pattern around the parking lot, word of mouth about your services expressed between friends, the navigation inside the hospital, the demeanor of staff, and so on, are each an expression of the brand and voice of your organization. Build into your processes opportunities to exchange perspective with patients and their families—what are they seeing that you don’t? What barriers exist to serving their needs?

Engage your team in design thinking exercises to explore and identify opportunities to enhance your impact on the consumer health journey. Challenge your team to consider every aspect of interaction in the broader context—how do the words we use, the objects we create, the services and experiences we provide, and the environments and systems we are a part of reflect the community we serve? Identifying key moments to impact consumers along their journey requires the appropriate mix of individual relevance to collective connectivity.

Remember: when change is the only constant, we must be prepared to embrace a new way of approaching our work—rolling up our sleeves and delving into the intersection of both human and technological experiences. Balance is needed to appropriately engage with consumers and to meet them where they are. Challenging the conventions of healthcare marketing strategy by exploring the consumer journeys firsthand is a valuable place to begin. Walking in your patients’ shoes to see what they see, hear what they hear, and feel how they feel—only then can you successfully anticipate and design an impactful healthcare experience.

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